On September 1st Ukraine is celebrating Day of Knowledge. This year more than 416 thousand Ukrainian boys and girls will begin their “knowledge journey”. Schooling is greatly encouraged in Ukraine. Primary school net enrollment is about 97%. Literacy (people age 15 and over can read and write) rate in Ukraine is 99,7%. Most people have higher education, some even two. People value education! They say here that “knowledge is power” (in Latin “scientia potentia est”). That’s why Day of Knowledge is a special day for Ukrainians.
In all the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries new academic year starts on this day. Every student, from first-grader to future college graduate starts a new school year. There is a tradition for a first-grader to “ring the first school bell”. On September 1st, 11th grader, a young guy, picks up a little girl and puts her on a shoulder, and walks, making a circle in front of all the students/pupils of a school. A first-grader rings the bell. In schools there is a bell ringing, signaling start or end of lessons. So, first bell ringing on September 1st symbolizes beginning of a new school year for first graders, and everybody who steps into a new academic year.
It’s a very exciting time for many children and their parents. Every school usually has a ceremony in a school yard. People give flowers to teachers, and beautiful speeches are said.
September 1stmorning is a very special time for everyone. For some it’s a first day at school, for some it’s the first day of the last high school year or college year, and for others it’s the worst day of the year- summer break is over, fun is over, back to strict schedule and lots of homework. No matter how they feel about it, everybody attends school on September 1. Usually there are not many classes on this day, except for higher education institutions, where there are several classes. Students get informed about new school year curriculum, and get homework. In the evening students usually celebrate Day of Knowledge with their friends.
Back in Soviet times the first class on September 1st was so called lesson of peace. Kids learned about World War II (1 September 1939 – 2 September 1945), and amount of loss for Soviet Union. Teachers would tell them about USSR been a peace loving state (which was a Soviet propaganda of course), and how everybody should be a patriot of their Motherland. By the way, Day of Knowledge became an official holiday in Soviet Union in 1984.
After Soviet Union collapsed post-soviet countries kept celebrating Day of Knowledge on September 1st. It is still an official holiday in Ukraine. Parents’ employers are encouraged to give a day off to those parents whose kids go to school on this day.
This year on September 1st, together with school bells, all the church bells around Ukraine will be ringing. The Deputy Minister of Education and Science, Youth and Sports of Ukraine, Borys Zhebrovskyy, informed about this unusual event, and expressed his believe that church bell ringing would make kids’ journey happy and light; it will be like a blessing. Also he announced that school year 2011/2012 will end on May 25 in 2012 because of the Euro-2012 soccer championship held in Ukraine. For most schools it’s 10-14 days earlier than usually. Even though students are happy about having a shorter school year this time, teachers will make sure that they deliver all the knowledge to the kids they need.
I want to wish all the teachers and students a wonderful Day of Knowledge, and enjoyable school year. As Benjamin Franklin said once, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”.
Here is a You Tube video with a well known school kids’ song, that we all know and love. It’s been around for many years (since Soviet days)! And to many Ukrainian and Russian people it brings a lot of warm memories. “Uchat v shkole” (“Учат в школе” – “They teach us at school”)